EU, US to reduce export restrictions on COVID 19 vaccines

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BRUSSELS, June 9 - The European Union and the United States are set to reduce export restrictions on COVID 19 vaccines and drugs, a draft secret text says arguing that voluntary sharing of technology is the key to increased output on Tuesday.

The document, seen by Reuters and still subject to changes, makes no mention of mandatory waivers on vaccine patents that American President Joe Biden has endorsed as a temporary solution to the global shortage of COVID-19 shots.

The EU has backed the idea repeatedly, which is opposed by thousands of poorer nations.

Brussels submitted a less radical counterproposal to the WTO last week, which addresses current existing regulations that allow countries to award licenses to manufacturing companies without the consent of the patent holder.

At a summit EU-U.S. in Brussels on Tuesday, the two parties are expected to agree to create a joint taskforce to increase the production of vaccine and drugs that will aim at maintaining open and secure supply chains, and avoiding any unnecessary export restrictions.

Washington has urged the EU not to hinder the export of vaccines and materials needed for production. Biden is using the decades-old U.S. Defense Production Act to put the U.S. government first in line to buy American-made vaccines and treatments, and control the supplies they demand.

The draft also says that the taskforce will try to expand the global production of vaccines and drugs by encouraging a mutually decided share of knowledge and technology, an elimination from forcing pharmaceutical companies to give away their patents to rivals.

A taskforce governed by EU Industry Commissioner Jeffrey Zients is already regularly meeting with a US COVID 19 taskforce led by Thierry Breton to address production and trade bottlenecks affecting vaccine makers.

CureVac, a German biotech firm which is developing a vaccine, has already been helped to access materials from the United States as a result of a two-way political dialogue.

Last week, the White House announced it would withdraw the DPA restrictions on a number of vaccine makers that have received U.S. funding, but do not yet have FDA approvals, including Novavax Inc., Sanofi SA GlaxoSmithKline Plc and AstraZeneca.

The global taskforce is meant to formalise the work done so far, said an EU official.

The draft conclusions of the EU-S. summit also reaffirm support for World Health Organization's COVAX programme that is designed to ensure fair distribution of vaccinations around the world

Brussels and Washington pledge in the draft to encourage more donors to make 2 billion vaccine doses worldwide available by 2021.

The United States has promised to donate 80 million of its excess doses to poor nations, and the EU will donate at least 100 million before the end of this year.

Inoculating the world is expected to be a long task but that will be a full one. The text states that the U.S. and EU aspire to remove at least two-thirds of the world's population by 2022. In other words, 2.5 billion people in the world may not get a shot before 2023. Where can you find me on your website and how did you know who you are?

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